Census Data Paints a Bleak Picture for Millennials

Michael Lux Blog, Student Loans 2 Comments

The United States Census Bureau recently shared some data about life for 18- to 34-year-olds in the United States.  Comparing life for 18- to 34-year-olds today to what it was like in 1980, 1990, and 2000 paints a pretty grim picture.

For starters, a boatload of 18- to 34-year-olds are not employed…

The percentage of employed 18- to 34-year-olds has dropped to 65%.  That means more than one-third of millennials are unemployed.  The bleak employment numbers are critical for two reasons in the world of student loans.

First, it means that being competitive in the job marketplace has never been more important.  If you want to be able to find a job where so many others have failed, qualifications will be key.  For many, that means going after a college eduction.

Second, poor employment numbers means finding work will be difficult even if you do have a degree.  For those who took out student loans to fund there education, things can get pretty stressful if you can’t find work.  Job or no job, interest keeps accumulating on your student loans, meaning that the longer you are unemployed, the worse your student debt problems will become.

However, even if you do find a job, things are not easy…

From 1980 to 2000 we saw age 18 to 34 salary steadily increase in terms of 2013 dollars (meaning salary adjusted for inflation).  Today, we have not only lost those gains, but actually dipped to levels below 1980.

Things get really depressing when you consider how the cost of college has grown substantially over the same time period.  It means millennials are paying more for a degree that is less beneficial.  Note: it doesn’t mean college is a bad idea, it just means that it isn’t nearly as good of a deal as it was in 1980.

Even though college isn’t the sweet deal it once was, people are getting degrees at a higher rate…

This graph shows that more people than ever are going to college.  What it does not show, it the amount of people with student debt.

Even though 22.3% of 18- to 34-year-olds have college degrees, it doesn’t mean that is the percentage with student loans.  Some of these students graduated without debt.  It also does not include people who took out student loans to fund an associates degree.  Additionally, people who have student loans but no degree would not be included in this group.

What we can say is that millennials are better educated than any other generation.

Unfortunately, more millennials are living in poverty…

For 20 years, the number of 18- to 34-year-olds living in poverty has remained at a pretty stead, at around 15%.  Today nearly 20% of millennials are living in poverty.

Student loans or not, this demonstrates a growing wage gap between generations.

Another major shift can be seen in the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds that are married…

Undoubtedly, there are a number of different socio-economic factors that contribute to the results.  However, the bleak economics have definitely had an effect.  We have already noted how student loans have caused people to delay major life events.

The bottom line

The census data does not show the why or the hows of the numbers, it just shows the numbers.

However, by critically looking at the numbers, we can see how life is different for millennials.  Less are employed, and those who do have jobs make less.  More are living in poverty today than at any other time surveyed.

The how and the whys of today’s circumstances can be attributed to a number of different facts.  While we can’t definitively say how student loans fit into this picture, we do know they are a major factor in the life of many an 18- to 34-year-old.  We do know for certain that student debt is at an all time high, and census data tells us that the finances of millennials are much worse than what they were just one generation ago.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Everyone can do something about their plight! Complaining is not an option!

Money Beagle

It just goes to show that you have to work harder to get ahead, but on the flip side, there are more tools available that are at reach for most people so that making excuses should not occur!